Google Is Working on Tattoos That Turn Your Body Into a Touchpad

For the first time, engineers figured out how to make glowing tattoos embedded with the same kinds of lights that illuminate your phone and TV screen.

The tats could, if embedded with sensors or other smart tech, turn into useful medical sensors or even help keep food fresh, according to research published last month in the journal Advanced Electronic Materials. But that’s all so practical — the prospect of getting a glowing, electronic tattoo is just downright cool.

Google Is Working on Tattoos That Turn Your Body Into a Touchpad

Undeterred by its historic Google Glass flop, Google is still investing heavily in various oddball forms of wearable technology.

Recent projects, according to CNET, include new mixed reality glasses, virtual reality controllers that let you feel the weight of virtual objects, and new smartwatches. But perhaps the most unusual is a high-tech temporary tattoo that basically turns your flesh into a giant touchpad.

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Any Other Name

Whether you call it a smart tattoo or a flexible wearable, the underlying tech could actually prove incredible valuable. For instance, the sensors make the tattoo glow when an athlete gets critically dehydrated or when food is about to expire — tattoo artists do practice on fruit skins, after all.

“In healthcare they could emit light when there is a change in a patient’s condition — or, if the tattoo was turned the other way into the skin, they could potentially be combined with light-sensitive therapies to target cancer cells, for instance,” senior study author Franco Cacialli, a physicist at University College London, said in a press release.

All Good Things
It’s worth really spelling out that these glowing tattoos aren’t permanent, and are in fact applied and removed just like any other temporary tattoo. If you get tired of a glowing “LOVE” and “HATE” across your knuckles, the researchers say that you’ll be able to wash them off with soap and water.

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As they exist right now, the tattoos can’t last long on their own anyway. The sensors degrade in relatively short order once they’re exposed to air, making them fade away into nothingness, making them a far more responsible option than that infinity  sign you got scribbled across your ribs.


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